In a recent survey of 2,000 British mums who gave up work to look after the kids, two-thirds believe the term 'housewife' has negative connotations and trivialises their roles; in fact, a third of those who dislike it even said it is insulting. Do we really feel disdain for those who give up careers for family? Or do we simply react to the term 'housewife' because of what it implies.
The way you look at it
I suspect it's the latter. Over time, we've come to see the word 'housewife' with feminist-tinted glasses: defining a woman by her role in the home and her marital status is plain old-fashioned, not to mention repressive! Despite the sexy Desperate Housewives, it evokes images of one who takes care of the home: husband, chores, babies, et al. The minute we hear the word 'housewife', a picture forms in our heads. We imagine a woman who slaves over the stove, uses Ala bleach to ensure hubby dearest's shirts are white and office-ready, plays second fiddle to the successful (or not!) man and kills the little free time with kitty parties and soaps on TV. We see an unequal woman, and we've all heard terms like 'home/house manager' that attempt to elevate the importance of the role. But today's stay-at-home mum is nothing like yesterday's housewife, is she? While she might still run after her children with their tiffin boxes in hand, the husband's shirts can go to the laundry. And kitty parties have been firmly replaced by book clubs, NGOs and community service. She Tweets, Facebooks and gets on to the road to support Anna Hazare.
Now, no one would argue that being a hands-on mum is an important role, perhaps the most important one we could play. Remove 'husband's assistant' and 'sole chore-doer' from a housewife's role, and we have nothing but respect and admiration for those who prioritise the kids and give up careers to become 'stay-at-home mums'. It places the home, chores and each other as shared responsibilities between husband and wife, as they should be.
In this wave of political correctness, the 'air hostess' is now a 'flight attendant' and the 'secretary' is now the 'administrative assistant'. Do you think the term 'housewife' deserves a similar fate...?